Liposuction for Lipedema & Cankles

What are Cankles?

Colloquially, cankles describe the appearance of ankles with excess adipose tissue (fatty tissue). The ankle may seem to merge with the calves rather than being clearly defined. It is often dismissed as obesity but cankles or lipedema of the lower leg is a condition of fat that cannot be exercised or dieted away, and obesity is only observed in approximately 50% of patients. Lipedema (or 'lipoedema') is a progressive disease: the earlier the diagnosis, the better the outcome.

What is Lipedema (or Lipoedema)?

Lipedema is a disease characterised by the abnormal and excessive accumulation of fatty tissue, often in the legs and hips. Without treatment such as liposuction, symptoms will grow progressively worse over time. As a progressive condition, most patients suffering from lipedema will eventually suffer poor mobility, leg tenderness, and skin hypersensitivity as their condition progresses.

1 in 11 Australian women are believed to suffer from debilitating lipedema. Until recently, the treatments available have only had a temporary effect and could be very costly and time-consuming.

Tumescent liposuction permanently removes excess fat tissue, improving quality of life and body confidence by:

  • Optimising mobility
  • Alleviating pain, discomfort, and swelling.
  • Bringing limbs into proportion, restoring symmetry to the legs
  • Improvement in leg definition
  • Preserving lymphatic health and circulation of the legs
  • Avoiding long-term dependence on compression garments

Symptoms of Lipedema (Lipoedema)

  • An abnormal and excessive accumulation of fat, generally in the lower legs and thighs
  • The legs appear swollen and have a column-like appearance
  • The affected areas hurt and/or are sensitive to touch, bruising easily
  • Difficulty exercising, walking, or participating in other physical aspects of daily life

What Causes Cankles & Lipedema (Lipoedema)?

While the root cause of lipedema (or lipoedema) is unknown, anecdotal evidence suggests that there is a genetic component that causes this condition. The majority of our patients suffering from lipedema report that their mothers also suffered from this ailment.

Medical research has demonstrated that lipedema presents in patients during periods of hormonal fluctuation including puberty, pregnancy, or menopause.

Who is affected by Lipedema?

Most patients suffering from lipedema (or lipoedema) are female and approximately 10-15% of the female population is affected.

Cankles/Lipedema & Varicose Veins

Varicose vein disease is often present in conjunction with cankles/lipedema and associated mild lymphedema. Varicose veins are abnormal veins that are unable to effectively transport blood (this is also known as venous insufficiency). As a result, blood begins to pool within the leg veins and puts pressure on the lymphatic system which drains fluid.

Cankles & Lipedema (Lipoedema) Treatment

We approach the treatment of cankles and lipedema first by treating any underlying vein disease, then using liposuction to permanently remove the existing fat.

1. Treating Vein Disease

All patients who suffer from lipedema or lymphoedema receive mandatory varicose vein mapping scans. This detailed duplex ultrasound examination of the blood vessels of the legs will be conducted so that any underlying venous insufficiency can be ruled out or promptly treated. Treatment for any vein abnormalities or varicose veins consists of laser, radiofrequency ablation, sclerotherapy, or medical glue before beginning any direct treatment of lipedema.

Learn more about Varicose Veins

2. Liposuction for Cankles

Liposuction is then performed on the leg. This outpatient procedure is carried out under local anaesthetic, with minimal post-operative discomfort. Liposuction can help treat the symptoms of lipedema that cannot be treated by diet and exercise alone.

Learn more about Liposuction

Liposuction for Lipedema Summary

  • Procedure Time
    2-3 hours

  • Back to Work
    3-5 days

  • Local Anaesthetic
    Ensures better results, faster recovery, and less pain

  • Results in 3-5 days
    Results improve over 12 months

  • Minimal Side Effects
    Bruising, swelling, and local tenderness most common

Case Study

Severe lipedema in the lower leg

This patient presented with moderate to severe lower leg lipedema, with lymphatic congestion and early fibrotic change.

We treated with tumescent VASER liposuction under local anaesthesia and the patient was completely comfortable throughout. No IV or IM sedation was necessary. 1300ml of supranatant fat was removed from each leg.

The after photo is from 3 days post liposuction. Although there is some swelling setting in (which is common post lipo), the change in the shape of the leg is stark.